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Relying simply on community-level data rather than conducting an individual social determinants of health screening increases the risk a patient will fall through the crack in social services interventions, according to new data published in JAMA Network Open. In other words, conducting a social determinants of health screening with individual patients provides more granular information about patient needs than looking at overarching risk factors in a certain geographic region.
Using census-tract level data, the researchers foremost worked to detect certain social risk factors based on community-level data. The researchers deemed a patient at-risk for social determinants of health if she lived in what the team determined to be an under-resourced neighborhood. Next, the team looked at individual-level social risk factor data gleaned from patient screenings. Those screenings asked patients about social challenges, like food insecurity, housing insecurity, and financial resource strain. The screenings provided individualized information about the social determinants of health.